The Fear in 54

By Rex HoggardJuly 4, 2010, 4:28 am

2010 AT&T NationalNEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – More so than designated tournaments, non-conforming grooves and differed compensation, the most feared phrase for PGA Tour types in recent weeks has become “54-hole leader.”

Not that a player would ever shy away from such an affliction, because if you’re atop the board through three laps chances are you’re golfing your ball. Yet consider the plight of your recent final-round pace setters as the dog days have descended on professional golf.

It started with Robert Garrigus in Memphis. Two up on the field through three rounds, he stepped to the 18th tee on Sunday at TPC Southwind needing no worse than a double-bogey for his first Tour title, lost track of his situational awareness, hit a tree, into the water and signed for a triple-bogey and eventually lost a playoff to Lee Westwood.

Seven days and a few times zones down the road big-hitting Dustin Johnson was 18 holes away from becoming the undisputed prince of Pebble Beach with a three-stroke advantage, raced his way to a par-triple bogey-double bogey-bogey start and was on the redeye back home before Graeme McDowell had finished his victory speech.

And last week Justin Rose began what should have been the downwind run at TPC River Highlands with a field goal head start, lost his rhythm, started death-gripping the golf club and signed for a closing 75.

Simply put, the last three Tour Sundays have been more smash mouth than fun ’n gun. The Sabbath has become scarier than a Stephen King chat room, which brings us to the schedule of events for the Fourth of July at Aronimink Golf Club. This time Rose is four shots clear of Carl Pettersson and Charlie Wi and, if he is to be believed, better equipped to handle Sunday pressures than he was seven days ago.

“I felt like I was a better player on Monday after Sunday at Hartford because of what I had learned,” said Rose, who shot a third-round 67 to grab the AT&T National lead. “I feel like I’m better for it.”

That is not guess work or wishful thinking, but instead hard, quantifiable fact acquired honestly via the type of soul searching that’s not easily given.

Less than 12 hours after Rose had tanked his shot at a second Tour title in four weeks he was on the phone with Dr. Gio Valiante, a central Florida-based sports psychologist who began working with the Englishman about six months ago.

For an hour and a half the two broke down what went wrong at TPC River Highlands and came up with a plan to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“His rhythm changed and his grip pressure changed,” Valiante said. “What you’ll see tomorrow is better rhythm and softer hands on the club. I’m not going to guarantee he will win, but he will be better because of what happened (in Hartford).”

Rhythm seems to be a central theme in all three recent Sunday collapses.

With Johnson, one of the Tour’s fastest players, he appeared to get quick in his shot selection process after hitting into a clump of grass adjacent Pebble Beach’s second green, hit a chip left handed than nearly swung under the ball with his next attempt. While Garrigus never took the time to understand his situation on the final hole in Memphis. All forgivable offenses, but more importantly they are all fixable.

“The main thing that happens when they get nervous is they get quick,” said Dr. Morris Pickens, whose list of Tour clients includes Stewart Cink, Zach Johnson and Lucas Glover. “Something starts going too fast. All of a sudden, instead of playing the golf course you’re playing to win your first title or whatever.”

Pickens, however, dismisses the notion that a player should somehow avoid getting nervous.

“Every time you’re going to have a result thought, a negative thought and you’re going to get nervous. Those are going to come,” Pickens said. “The goal is to learn how to handle that.”

Similarly, the trio’s lack of Sunday experience also factored heavily into the outcome the last three weekends.

Garrigus’ closest brush with Tour fame was a pair of third-place finishes in 2007 and ’08, while Johnson, although a three-time Tour winner and a rising star by any measure, had never been that close to major glory.

While Rose had won his first Tour title in early June at the Memorial he did so from the pack, trailing by four strokes heading into the final round, and, truth be told, not all victories are created equal.

“Playing with the lead (in Hartford), it’s the first time I’ve done that in a long, long time,” Rose admitted. “I had some emotions.”

Having his client admit he had “emotions” is something of a 5-and-4 walkover for Valiante, particularly this client who suffered through dreadful days earlier in his career and suffered through numerous near-misses in America.

“The problem with a lot of guys on the PGA Tour is they try to force an outcome and the guy gets bullied,” Valiante said. “You’re looking at a guy that won’t get bullied.”

Sports psychologist are big on one-liners, Post-It notes for the soul that simplify the task at hand to a single thought. After Nick Watney’s first round, Pickens texted his newest client, “Nice Thursday.” The message? It was one good day, now focus on Friday.

“Walk around the golf course casual and confident” is another one of Picken’s inspirational offerings.

Asked what he might text Rose on Sunday morning before he sets out in the anchor pairing for the second consecutive week, Valiante offered a quick answer, “He likes to go to battle with one word, the word for (Sunday) is release.”

Simple, to the point and not nearly as unsettling as “54-hole leader.”

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.